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Thinking About the Three Minute Summary

Download the DebateUS PF app with the new NSDA times (3 minute Summary, 4 minutes Prep). The app is available on the Apple Store and the Google Play store.  Our standard timer also has the traditional times.





As most students have finished competing and many are preparing for camp and thinking about next year, it is important to think about how the NSDA’s new three minute “pilot” (many tournaments will adopt) Summary speech will impact debate.

In this brief post I will outline some implications I see for the time change and how it may impact your debates.  As of now, these are simply a list of thoughts that are not in any particular order.

I’m also interested in adding any additional relevant thoughts that people have, so please post to the thread if you have anything to add.

The end of games. Many teams won debates by adding a substantial amount of offensive in Rebuttal, particularly the second Rebuttal.  Teams would sometimes explicitly read a brief“add-on” content. that just consisted of a link card and an impact card. Sometimes they would be explicit about that fact that it was new and other  times they would try to relate it to one of the arguments in the Rebuttal. Other times they would disguise it within their Rebuttal as part of a refutation of another argument.

When teams did this in the second Rebuttal, Summary speakers were very limited in the amount of time they had to answer the argument and  debaters in that situation would usually lose, either because they didn’t respond adequately to the argument or because their answers there would force them to undercover other positions.

If someone reads  an “add-on” contention in the world of the three minute Summary, not only will people have the time to cover it but they could read at least one minute of impact turns. So, for example, imagine a pro Rebuttal speaker makes an argument that the case increases economic growth. Con speakers can now spend a minute reading evidence that says economic growth is bad. If they did this, it would be nearly impossible for the final speaker to cover this.

Rising expectations.  Judges expect Summary speakers to cover the Rebuttal to a degree. Lay judges obviously  have a low expectation of coverage and judges that are more experience and technical have a greater expectation of coverage. All judges, however, recognize that the Summary speaker can only cover so much in two minutes and are usually somewhat generous in what they allow to be missed. With three minutes, however, debaters will be expected to cover more.

Waiting to kick out of a contention.  In order to help with argument coverage most Summary speakers will immediately ditch one of their contentions. Teams that hold the second speaker position, however, may wish to keep both of their original contentions alive in Summary to force the first Final Focus speaker to cover one of the contentions that won’t matter in the end (when the last Final Focus speaker only extends one of the contentions.

Greater significance for the first speaker.  In the current PF configuration the first speaker reads a 4 minute speech and then does a two minute Summary. Many teams even allow the second speaker to dominate the grand crossfire in order to set up her arguments for final focus. With a three minute speech, the first speaker will have  a greater opportunity to both make an impact and to cover more arguments.